David Bowie – ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’ (40th Anniversary Edition) – Album Review
There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and David Bowie CD reissues.
First and foremost, there’s the 1990 Rykodisc re-release of his catalog, a series once coveted by collectors because of their generous sampling of rare bonus tracks.
Then there’s the 24-bit digitally remastered discs EMI sold in the late '90s and, in recent years, the lavish repackaging of 1976’s ‘Station To Station.’ (This is but a brief sampling of the Bowie wares out there; here's a more extensive list.)
To mark the 40th birthday of ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars,’ EMI has reissued the album yet again. Unlike the 30th anniversary double-CD reissue of the album—which included a disc of demos, alternate versions and rare tracks, as well as some niggling imperfections—the new version is just a remastered version of the original 11-song album. The catch: The polishing job was conducted by Ryan Staff, the original engineer at Trident Studios, where ‘Ziggy Stardust’ was originally recorded.
In Staff’s hands, the reissue of the album sounds fantastic: crisp, rich and warm. Individual parts of songs pop out from the mix—swooning strings (‘Five Years’), bar-boogie piano and the pennywhistle/sax interlude (‘Moonage Daydream’), a rumble-strip bass line (‘Suffragette City’) and acoustic strums (‘Rock & Roll Suicide’). The familiar songs feel revitalized and fresh, like they’re being unwrapped again for the very first time.
Bowie, whose voice was already wise beyond his then-25-years, sounds even more invested in the ill-fated Ziggy character on this new version. One minute he’s a scrappy musician scrambling to be known; the next, he’s a soulful crooner connecting with his fans; the next, he’s a flashy glam frontman intoxicated by fame and confidence; and finally, he’s a grizzled musician worn down by having to live up to his own myth.
Thanks to the sterling audio fidelity of this reissue, the enduring influence of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ is also more pronounced. In fact, these nuances reveal some intriguing modern parallels; for instance, former White Stripes frontman Jack White seems to have been paying homage to the aesthetic of ‘It Ain’t Easy’ in his solo work.
With so many ‘Ziggy Stardust’ reissues out there already, the question remains: Is this particular version worth picking up? For Bowie completists, it’s a must-buy. Those with a previous CD reissue should also add this to their collection, as this is a superior version of the album. However, if you’re on the fence? In keeping with prevailing trends—and Bowie’s penchant for audio perfection—the vinyl version of the 40th anniversary reissue is where the bonus goodies are. Besides the remastered LP, it has an audio DVD with a 5.1 mix of the album and unreleased 2003 stereo mixes of several songs, including ‘Velvet Goldmine.’ Oh, did we mention you can win that very same box set right here?